Understanding the Epidemiology of Pediatric Supracondylar Humeral Fractures in the United States: Identifying Opportunities for Intervention

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Abstract

Background:

Supracondylar humeral fractures (SCHF) are the most common elbow fractures in children. The epidemiology of these injuries in the United States is described.

Methods:

The Nationwide Emergency Department Sample database was queried for all children (age, below 18 y) with SCHF treated in the emergency department (ED) from 2006 to 2011, and weighted estimates were extracted.

Results:

A total of 63,348 ED visits for SCHF were identified. The weighted estimate of ED visits remained stable over the study period, ranging from 60.3 to 71.8 per 100,000 children annually. There was no significant difference in fracture rate (52% male) by sex. The mean age of closed injury was 5.5±3.1 years, with 53.6% of fractures occurring in children 3 to 6 years. Open injuries accounted for 1.0% of fractures. Children with open injuries were significantly older (mean, 9.1±4.4 y; P<0.0001) and more often male (OR, 1.43; P<0.001). Neurovascular injury occurred in significantly older children (mean, 7.6±3.1 y; P<0.0001) and was documented in 11.4% of open fractures and 3.6% of operative fractures. Although the South had the greatest number of total SCHF-related ED visits, children in the West had significantly more SCHF-related ED visits per 100,000 children annually (77.9) than all other regions (P<0.05). Average fracture rates were approximately 60% higher in April to September than October to March (P<0.001). Mean total charges for patients treated and discharged from the ED were $2965, compared with $17,865 in children admitted for surgery (P<0.05). Mean charges were significantly higher in the West compared with all other regions (P<0.0001).

Conclusions:

The incidence of pediatric SCHF-related ED visits remained stable from 2006 to 2011 and occurred most frequently in children aged 3 to 6 years. Open injuries are rare and are more likely to occur in older boys. There are significant differences in the injury rates and charges across geographic regions, identifying opportunities for injury prevention, cost reduction, and value improvement. The indications for operative management should be clearly delineated given the high cost of surgical treatment.

Level of Evidence:

Therapeutic Level IV.

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